Conflicting Thoughts on Recent Events

Lately we all have seen the horrible carnage of terrorist attacks that have been broadcast in the media.

  • 147 killed in Kenya in a terrorist attack on a University
  • 43 killed in Lebanon by a suicide bomber. 239 injured
  • 224 killed over Egypt in a Russian aircraft that was bombed while in flight
  • Coordinated attacks in Paris. 129 killed and hundreds more injured

I have no other word than “horrible” to describe all of this. Over 400 people – innocent people in different corners of the world – killed. This is horrible enough. But there is more.

I have done a lot of thinking about not just what has been happening, but also about both the reporting by the news media and the response of our elected officials. And there are many messages being sent from all corners that have an effect the opinions of anyone who hears them. A significant number of those messages are certainly meant to influence how we view what happened and how we should respond.

Probably the first of those who are guilty of this is the news media. Whether you think of the mainstream media – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, etc. – or the alternative media, which could be any number of outlets as there are way too many to name, everyone who reports the news has an agenda. There is no such thing as “unbiased” news reporting; it doesn’t exist. A couple of examples come to mind as cases in point.

I have been following CNN‘s reporting of the attacks in Paris. I know – a lot of people refer to CNN as the “Communist News Network”, including me, from time to time. But the reason I follow CNN is that they tend to have wider ranging coverage than the other networks. That makes them no less biased in their reporting, however, and I take a fair amount of what they say with a grain of salt. But I do the same for other outlets as well: Fox News, MSNBC, and the more independent outlets are guilty of the same sort of thing. And I am using CNN as an example because they are the most visible, and by extension, the biggest example of what I’m referring to.

Some of the stories on CNN’s home page include significant coverage of what has happened. The headline is the words “FIGHTING BACK”, just as you see it. Two opinion pieces are entitled “Don’t feed ISIS chaos” and “It’s not ‘World War III'”. The first article makes the statement, in large part, that while there were mistakes made in terms of dealing with radical Islam since before 9/11 (remember the Mujahadeen, who the US backed, when the former Soviet Union had troops in Afghanistan?), it’s not too late to do things right, ultimately leading to victory, peace, and healing. I use the word “healing” because in the beginning of the article the author points out that since 1975, when the United States walked away from Vietnam in seeming defeat, today we as a nation are the eighth largest importer of Vietnamese goods in the world, not to mention we host the largest number of Vietnamese students worldwide.

The other piece, the “World War III” article I mentioned, talks about the difference between al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL – I think Daesh is totally appropriate, personally), in large part reminding the reader that while al-Qaeda is spread worldwide in terms of their operations, Daesh actually has co-opted geography in Iraq and Syria in the attempt to form a caliphate. The differences are clear: al-Qaeda wants anyone from the West to leave the Middle East. Daesh wants to bring on the Apocalypse. With that said, a number of points were addressed in the article, including the limited support Daesh has beyond its own physical boundaries and the number of nations allied against it, including the US, Britain, Russia, Iran, and France. Some of the other ideas expressed include the issues of how the US responds to refugees and the potential consequences for how people of different religious faiths are treated, how to deal with Syria (the gist is “Assad needs to go”), and the overall complexity of Islamic politics.

Both are interesting articles to read. But they are only part of the picture.

First, while I certainly think there should be response to what Daesh has done, and continues to do, is it worth it to put more troops into that part of the world? Unless there is a solid plan with quantifiable objectives, like there was during the first Gulf War in the early 1990’s, I don’t see the point in doing so. Part of my reason for saying that is because of the conditions our troops operate under today in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Rules of Engagement limit what they can and can’t do to the point of being crippling. Don’t get me wrong; there have always been Rules of Engagement. Some of them were much less crippling, others more so. An example of the latter is the Rules that Marines had to follow in Lebanon in the 1980’s before the Barracks was bombed. If you ever have the opportunity to view them, take it, and you will see what I mean. The absurdity of the Rules they operated under was written about by Eric Hammel in his book, “The Root.” As a result of the disastrous consequences of how they were implemented and enforced, a substantial number of Marines (241) and other personnel who were there died. And I think some lessons were learned over that. However, that doesn’t mean the conditions our troops work under now are hugely better. I would submit that they are not. And it all goes back to what I initially was talking about regarding objectives.

Second, why was Paris singled out, in terms of worldwide attention? Understand that I am not begrudging anyone who was a victim of the attacks their due, in terms of support, and of the city of Paris as a whole. No city or population deserved what happened. And it is the second time this year if you consider what happened in January with the attack on Charlie Hebdo. No – Paris has not deserved any of this. At the same time, however, I mentioned three other incidents that have occurred in the recent past. How is it that they – especially the incidents in Kenya and Lebanon – have not warranted the same attention? Is it because they are not European locations? Or is it because, in the case of Beirut, that “this happens all the time over there”, as it were? I have to point out that the last time there was any marked violence like this in Beirut was before the Lebanese Civil War ended a little over 20 years ago.

And what about Kenya? The attack I’m referring to happened seven months ago. This was an attack on the campus of Kenya College, located in Garissa. It occurred on April 2, and there were 147 students killed in the attack. I remember hearing about it when it happened, and I also remember thinking, “Why isn’t this being covered more thoroughly?” There was also no further mention of this attack until the story was re-told this past week after the attacks in Paris.

This, especially, is both sad and absurd at the same time. Why an attack on a school was low-balled, in terms of reporting, is beyond me.

There is the matter of refugees in all of this. I can only imagine that there are many who would say “no more, especially from Syria.” Indeed, 27 states, as of the last count, have opted to not allow more into their territory, New Hampshire being one of them. Do I agree? I won’t lie – part of me does. But a larger part of me knows that the problem is not with refugees themselves. It is with the small percentage of those who have in mind to commit acts of terror and attempt to spread chaos that are totally screwing things up for the huge majority of people who are running away from the awful circumstances that they have been forced to live under. What makes it so difficult is that there isn’t a practical way, at least that I am aware of, to separate the wheat from the chaff. And that hurts anyone and everyone who is trying to escape the terror that they have had to endure.

One last thing to consider. Two nations, France and Russia, have basically said, “enough is enough”, and have taken matters into their own hands. Is this a good or bad thing? I think it depends on your point of view. Part of me has actually rejoiced over this. Another part of me worries that there will be considerable spillover as a result, the cycle of violence will be pushed down even further, and more people who don’t deserve to die, unfortunately, will.

I guess my point is that we live in what could be euphemistically described as “interesting times.” It is bad that all of this is happening around the world. It is equally bad that our own leadership is so divided on ways to try to stop what is happening, as well as prevent it here. My personal opinion on that is it won’t be prevented in time; I am not sure that those who are in charge will figure things out quickly enough, or that political considerations will be put aside in order to do this. Ultimately, I believe that is the root of the problem; nobody wants to cooperate to figure out how to solve this problem. And, in a manner of speaking, the wolf is already at the door.

Conflicting Thoughts on Recent Events

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